Yesterday I got a call from a buddy of mine. A friend of his is a NY Post reporter who was looking for people to see Mel Gibson’s new Passion movie, get photographed, and provide quotes. We met up at the AMC25. They bought us popcorn and soda and we went in.
Mel Gibson presents the Jewish leadership as wanting Jesus dead because they veiwed him as a blasphemer. A subset of them bribe Judas, have Jesus captured, try him in a midnight kangaroo council, beat him up, and hand him over to the Romans. They then proceed to threaten Pontius Pilate with disorder if he does not order Jesus crucified. He eventually does so and the second half of the movie is graphic depiction of the Roman’s torturing and eventually crucifying and killing Jesus.
So objectively, it was ROMAN Pontius Pilate who ordered Jesus crucified and it was ROMAN soliders that then tortured and killed him. Nonetheless Mel Gibson tries to make the Jews take the fall — as if the ONLY reason Pilate had Jesus crucified was because the Jews wanted it and wouldn’t/couldn’t do it themselves.
However Gibson’s presentation of Pilate’s motives are at odds with our historical intuition. The Jews are not known for wanting anyone crucified (it is a Roman invention). The Romans are not known for kowtowing to the sensitivities of their subject populations. An alternative interpetation more consistent with the facts is thiat Pilate was having trouble contending with the power of the Jewish leadership in the region — would the people be loyal to Rome or the Jews? He became aware of an increasingly popular figure in the population names Jesus. He figures he can weaken loyalty to this leadership if it becomes know that they are responsible for the death of Jesus. Since they won’t kill Jesus themselves, the only alternative is for him to order it and claim it was at their behest.
In this context, Mel Gibson’s movie comes accross as a Roman propaganda piece. The Jewish leadership is portrayed as utterly venal. The torture and death portrayed completely graphically generating moral outrage among the audiece to lay at the Jews feet. I don’t know why he is doing it. Perhaps it is doing this to make money, perhaps he is working out his relationship with his father.
Either way, in a world of increasing anti-semitism, it is sad.
What concerns me is that the propoganda is effective. Some of my fellow movie goers cried. In speaking to them afterwards it was clear that many of them believed Mel’s presentation as historical fact. Most of them were probably unware that even though the screneplay was written by Gibson the substitles STILL didn’t match the aramaic. OH well.
Anyway, check out my photo in tomorrow’s NYPOST!
Update: The online version is here.